One of our biggest milestones to date is the partnership we established last year with Maasai Magazine, which all began when we shared the travel story of one of its team members, Seville-based photographer Miguel Jimenez, across the fascinating landscapes of Marrakesh. We delight in meeting like minds and seeing great work, so we were thrilled to share the word about the first issue of this magazine that provides a unique peek at Spanish culture.
Fast-forward to 2016, we are once again more than happy to further this partnership with a space in their recently-launched second issue. Apart from being able to collaborate with Maasai, we are truly grateful for the chance they gave us to reach out to more people and tell them about our passion for analogue photography, as well as share the most impressive works captured on film.
In this issue, Whattaroll and Maasai have placed the spotlight on the emotive and often enigmatic photography of Bird.ee. This interview dives straight into her work, film photography journey, insights, and creative process while retaining the mystery of her identity, background, and other external details.
We invite everyone — especially our Spanish-speaking and Spain-based readers — to grab a copy of Maasai Magazine’s second issue here to see Bird.ee’s beautiful work on print.
Please scroll further to read the English version of this interview.
Can you share with us a little about yourself? How long have you been working with film? How did the film photography journey begin for you? What was it like when you were just figuring out the kind of photography that you want to do?
About two years ago is when it all started! I was married, and our relationship was in a very unhealthy place. He was excited about taking photos of me and sharing them with other people, which happened without me knowing. Eventually he talked me into starting an Instagram account for that. Little did I know at the time how transformative it would become for me. I immediately decided to take the account into my own hands and do something with it that I felt was beautiful, tasteful, honest, and something that more represented who I am. It was still nude and totally outside of my usual comfort zone but it was open and honest and I met open honest people through it, and loved that.
At the time I was in a toxic relationship and had very little sense of self. I had become numb and detached from my body and wasn’t able to detect how situations actually made me feel physically and emotionally. So if there was a situation that would have typically signaled my body with a nervousness that it wasn’t safe or good for me, I was too numb to feel that signal. I couldn’t have told you how I felt about the situation at all. So when I started taking self portraits, and seeing me for me, I started to slowly connect my mind and body again. This is who I am. I could see the pain, the crying out for help and love, and also I started to be able to see the strong woman that I am behind all of it.
I fell in love with being able to create something that others could relate to. And I fell in love with just creating something as an outlet. I had no idea what I was doing as far as photography goes, I was just creating. I used my iPhone for everything with a little timer app., put the photo through VSCO, and onto Instagram, sharing it with the world. I quickly started to push myself to express more clearly how I felt. Eventually, with the help of friends and artists that I am inspired by on Instagram, I started learning about film photography. This catapulted me into photography even more as I fell in love with the slow careful process of shooting, developing, and scanning. I love seeing this physical image that I created with my hands.
We believe that many people are just as curious as we are — why did you choose “bird.ee” as your alias and what does it stand for?
When I was picking a name for this Instagram account that I decided to start, I was probably humming Blackbird by the Beatles in my head and thought, that would be a nice nick name, Birdy. Subconsciously symbolizing freedom and independence. Of course then you start to realize most of these basic names like “Birdy” are taken on IG, so I ended up with Bird.ee.
Photography can be seen as sharing and telling stories, as well as expressing feelings and sensations. While your avid audience can identify your style, how would you yourself define your visual style or identity? How do you personally view your own work? What messages or sensibilities are you trying to express that are maybe less obvious to your audience?
One of the amazing side effects of starting an Instagram account and constantly creating and dumping it all into one place is that, it wasn’t until after the fact that I could look back and see what my style is. My work could be described in words as feminism, sexuality, confidence, mourning, solitude, happiness, hopefulness… things I often feel, am trying to understand better, or am longing for. And, these are all shared openly on my own terms, no one else’s. My style seems to have evolved into a minimalism that allows these gestures to be the main focus of the image. At least that’s what I think, I haven’t actually heard how others would describe it.
There’s a great sense of calm in the imagery you produce. Would you say that is a good representation of you as an individual?
Spot on! Most of my close friends and family would describe me as a very calm, kind, and introverted person, and that they feel more calm around me. I am an ISFP, for all of you Myers-Briggs fans.
It’s always refreshing to see how you incorporate water into your work. What makes it an integral element to your visual style?
I think the visual style came after I became fixated on incorporating water in my work, or rather, incorporating myself in water for my work. As I was starting my self-portrait journey and first started to take underwater photos, it was like an epiphany, This is it! I found it. It was a representation of transcending to another world for me. A place of peace, wanting to be unencumbered and free. This was a way I could best say it with images.
While most photographers would shy away from underwater photography, you seem to relish in the prospect; can you tell us why, given that this approach is so unforgiving?
I think it helped that, when I started taking these photos, I really had no idea what I was doing! I think that helped me not fear it, it really helped me not fear failing. Because what I was (am) doing is expressing a feeling, and if i can reach one person (be it even just myself) then I have succeeded. Heck, even if i don’t do that, as long as I enjoy doing it, then that’s all that matters. So, combined with my love for a challenge, I absolutely love being in the water, and creating, and communicating with images. I feel like when I’m in the water, a happiness and almost child-like energy comes over me. Do you know that feeling? When you are in your element, its hard to find words to describe it. So I can’t imagine my work not involving water.
Can you share with us an unforgettable experience while working on an underwater shoot?
It would have to be the first time I got in the pool with my iPhone/lifeproof case and started exploring possibilities and taking some self-portraits. I had that epiphany. This is what I want to do. This is where I want to go with my work.
We’d like to know, how do you juxtapose the fluidity of water and your models’ poses or movement? Do you find it exciting to figure out how to make the properties of water work with your ideas?
It’s very exciting and always has that element of unpredictability. You kind of have to “go with the flow” for these kinds of shoot. Everyone has their own way of moving in water. Some people are more comfortable with it than others. I found that shooting in shallow water keeping the movements simple yet dynamic is best, and easiest, for a model to achieve. I really love using the water to create an abstract, almost outer space like world. I usually like to shoot myself and other models with their head out of the water, I feel like it kind of adds to the mysterious abstract feel.
We’re sure many of us share the same belief that photographing nudes is a very delicate or even tricky work. How do you visualize a shoot for this approach?
Indeed, there are so many different ways a nude photograph can be interpreted! It can be scary to think that it comes across differently than intended. When I am taking self-portraits, I am focusing on my internal: Where am I emotionally? What am I trying to say, or hide? How do I feel about myself, about my body? This is the key for me. It’s all in the intention, and the rest just flows. So how do I visualize a shoot? I actually don’t really visualize it at all, but I meditate on where I am emotionally, and what I want to express with my body, eyes, movement, surroundings at that moment. Most all of my shoots are on a whim, expressing as I feel things strongly. Kind of like if you carry a journal, and you take it out at times to jot thoughts, words, emotions, ideas down that you don’t want to forget.
Many artists see the female form in nude as a delicate representation of beauty, and a blank canvas that they can use to represent their own style. Is this also the case for you? If not, what are your feelings or sentiments about it?
I agree, this is also the case for me. I feel like it represents vulnerability in my work, and at the same time the power that I hold over how I share it.
What is it about a shoot or project that makes you say that the results are truly your style or show the exact sentiment/s you had in mind?
To be honest I’m still exploring and learning, so i’m not sure that I would be able to do that yet. I’ll just set out on a shoot and try new things and see what happens. Sometimes I don’t like it, and other times I definitely want to try that again.
Shortly before a shoot, are you confident about getting all the shots that you want, or do you find yourself still running in your mind a bunch of random/spontaneous ideas up to the very last minute?
Before a shoot, not at all. Sometimes I’ll do a self-portrait shoot and none of them necessarily turn out to be something that I would share. It’s still a creative outlet and healing process, to be able to face the emotions that I’m dealing with, regardless if they are worthy of being shared or not. Usually, as I start the shoot, ideas will start coming in and it may progress into something that I am really excited about.
From the desert to the water, from the outdoors to the interiors of your very own home, your work depicts a somewhat lonely and barren world. Was this a conscious choice of yours or a matter of coincidence? Is there a reason for this?
I think that is part of my personal style and taste coming through, in how I frame and interpret my surroundings.
What inspires and motivates you? Where do you turn to when your creativity runs dry?
Acknowledging feelings and emotions as I go through different life events. I’m not sure yet about where to turn when creativity runs dry. I usually just take a break.
What scares you the most when it comes to creating your art?
That it would hurt someone.
To see more of Bird.ee’s work, please follow the links below: